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Posts Tagged ‘Paolo Coelho

Will you die from an overdose of satisfaction?

The delightful Paolo Coelho quotes Salvador Dali in his blog today.  I deduce that Dali is an artist.  But you and I are probably more interested in his attitude to life.

“The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant. At the age of six years I wanted to be a chef. At the age of seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambitions have continued to grow at the same rate ever since. Every morning when I awake, the greatest of joys is mine: that of being Salvador Dali. There are some days when I think I’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.”

Do your ambitions continue to grow?  Do you like being you?

I am pretty sure you do.  I’ve never met anyone whose eyes don’t light up when we acknowledge their existence.

But so many of us are trying to be someone whom we are not.  We are exhausted by our constant pretending.

It’s so much easier to look at each day and marvel at the moments when we were just doing what brings us alive.  We can put aside the long commutes and grubby trains.  We can put aside the dentist’s chair.   As we pick our way through the rubbish tip of western life much as a small child does on the rubbish dumps of third world cities, we can still find time to celebrate not only what fascinates us but that we are fascinated at all.

Can we celebrate being us and not airbrush ourselves out of the picture leaving only the rubbish dump for the world to see?  Hey this is us. Why should we bring our lives down to the tip around us?  I nearly said, “sorry not me”.  But I am not even going to give that possibility that much airtime.  I’m too busy.

Put rubbish in the rubbish bin where it belongs

I say to university students, “when something is rubbish, pick it up and put it in the rubbish bin where it belongs.  And move along.”  They are always so relieved. They think they are obliged to honor rubbish.  They aren’t.  They just have to bin it.  With gusto and applomb.

They are too busy and too interesting to waste time on refuse.  That belongs on the dump.

Have your ambitions being growing at the same rate – chef at 6, Napolean at 7?  If not, then it is time to bring your life alive!

Psychologists need poetry

I have one piece of advice for anyone who aspires to be a psychologist.  Read poetry.  Read good novels.

Your College or Department will jump your through a  lot of pseud-scientific hoops.  Jump through them but for a different reason to the one they give.  Jump through them because they will teach you how to ‘fail informatively’.  Yes. Fail informatively.

In the future, you will be able to handle unfamiliar situations by proposing one or more reasonable ways forward.  And then you can set up some experiments.  You can choose the best way forward.  And if you have set up your experiment well, the less favorable ways will also teach you a little more than ‘wrong way’.  This is the reason why you should study science.

To understand people, well, meet a lot of people and do things with them.  And read.

A good read is Paolo Coelho who also blogs and tweets.  Today he posted a 1 minute parable on the meaning of happiness.  It is an easy read.  The ending sums up the meaning of happiness.

For psychologists out there, this parable talks about two important psychological phenonena.

#1  Management of attention.

To manage one’s own direction and to pay attention to what is going on around us.

We need lots of practice at doing this. Computer games help us do this.  TV and reading books does not.  Sport helps us learn this.  Writing does not.  But speaking does.  Make sure you get lots of practice at learning to manage your attention so that you tackle frontiers with greater ease!

#2  We live at our frontier.

To define who we are by what we do.

Not what we feel, or believe.  But what we do in various contexts defined by who else is there.  We are our frontier.  We are our edge.

Perhaps we are a young man who cannot carry two drops of oil and look around a new place.  Or frontier is the new place, the new idea, and our own confusion.  It is here that we are ‘alive’ with our dreams and our hopes, our confusions and our sorrows.

This is a tough challenge for psychologists.  We have nothing to measure.  The definition may even be circular.  That is because psychology is not a thing. It is a goal or a purpose that is supremely personal.  Our goal is to live a our frontier.  The story of our frontier and our confusion is the story we all want to hear.

When we want to do the maths, then we look at whether we were in a situation that covers the whole gamut of emotions and whether we were able to respond appropriately as events unfolded.  Or were we like the young boy, first forgetting the context and then forgetting his task.  Can we recover from confusion and distress or do we get stuck?  Are we so scared of life that we insist that it be plain sailing all day and every day?

Do we approach our frontier or do we hang back?  And under what conditions are we able to approach our frontier and learn to carry the oil and look around despite our initial confusion?

Yes, positive psychologists do know something about this.  But so do poets.  Begin with them.

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What do coaches do?

Some coaches tell you what do.

Hey, who is living this life?

Some coaches say hmmm,  haw, what do you think?

What are they contributing here that the cat couldn’t do just as well?

A good coach encourages wisdom

We are all wise, at least a little.  But in our impatience to make a decision, sometimes we rush to conclusions.

A good coach helps us do our thinking.

Dialogic thinking:  how would other people see this problem?

We could talk to lots of other people, and our coach might ask us to.  They will check that we have done so.

They’ll also suggest reading novels and watching movies. They’ll get you to take a “cloud journey” and fly around the world looking down on different cultures and imagine what they are doing right now.  It frees up the mind and welcomes in what you know but have pushed aside.

And a good coach will suggest techniques described by Paolo Coelho in The Warrior of Light.  Imagine fighting against yourself!  That helps you flesh out what you are doing and what you are taking for granted!

Dialectical thinking: how our questions and answers change over time

The difficulty with being a noobe, is that we have no idea how we will see an issue when we’ve had a little more experience!

A coach has seen many people go through the same process of noobe to expert and they know how you will change.

Importantly, they know you will change.  They’ll help you approach an issue in an experimental way.   Test, redefine, test, redefine!

A good coach shares your journey

A good coach is not only there for you when times are hard.  A good coach understands that their wisdom grows from their relationship with you.  They too used dialogic and dialectical thinking.

They need to understand your point-of-view about your predicament and your point-of-view about their relationship with you.  They too need to see their questions and answers change as as result of working with you.

A good coach is not expert who gives answers or pretends to know behind a hmm, haw, and what do you think?

A good coach is challenged by your views and changes their own mind as they learn about yours.


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